July 15th, 2013
The Monday before the All-Star Game is usually media day for the players, not the agent. When you represent both of the starting pitchers, though, it’s a pretty good day to be Scott Boras, and a great day to talk with reporters.
“We’re pretty fortunate because we’ve got two guys starting the All-Star Game,” Boras said. “One’s a young player, and Max has earned his way to this level. It’s a rare time in his career. And when you have two of those guys on a team performing to those high levels, it’s pretty rare. Not many times in baseball history do you get that kind of production. And Max is very happy in Detroit.”
Boras is very happy with Scherzer being in Detroit right now as well. His success so far puts him in a position to command the free-agent pitching market in a year and a half if he can keep it up. Or, it could put him in position to hold a lot of leverage should the Tigers and Boras enter talks on a contract extension.
That hasn’t happened yet, Boras said, and it won’t happen during this season. Though he has been in touch with Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski, Scherzer’s contract hasn’t been a topic.
“Dave and I usually do things like that in the offseason,” Boras said. “I talked to Dave a few days ago about a number of things, but contract things we take care of in the offseason.”
Boras has traditionally favored an open-market approach with his pitchers, using free agency as a tool whether his clients re-sign or go somewhere else. Still, recent history has tended towards teams locking up their young pitchers with contract extensions. Boras isn’t ruling that out in this instance.
“I don’t think Detroit fans should all be scared of free agency,” Boras said. “If I’m not mistaken, I think free agency has been very good to the Detroit Tigers. Again, I don’t think Mike Ilitch or Dave is in any way perplexed about what they know free agency means to a player like Max. He’s a proven owner to go out and do what is necessary to keep the players that Dave and his staff have determined are necessary for his success.”
The question, of course, will be whether the Tigers have too many potential free agents to make it happen. Detroit already has Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez under lucrative long-term deals, and Miguel Cabrera, Austin Jackson, Doug Fister and Rick Porcello all could be free agents after the 2015 season.
For various reasons, Boras said, “There are frankly fewer players in free agency. There’s no pitcher in this marketplace like Max in free agency this [coming] year.”
There’ll be one in the next free agent class after that, of course, if there isn’t extension.
This might be the only time Prince Fielder enters any baseball competition as a leadoff hitter. Once he finished his swings in Monday night’s Home Run Derby, totaling five home runs, it was a merciless wait to see if he advanced.
It was not particularly long. Once first-time Derby contestants Yoenis Cespedes, Michael Cuddyer, Pedro Alvarez and Chris Davis followed him with better opening rounds, Fielder went from looking to match Ken Griffey Jr. with three Derby crowns to looking at an early exit at Citi Field.
From his first two swings, Fielder seemingly was on his way to an encore of his winning performance from last year in Kansas City. His first swing took a ball out 379 feet to right field, followed by a 483-foot launch into the upper deck.
From there, however, he went into a power outage, flying out twice to right before getting a 363-foot drive over the fence.
Four consecutive outs followed, Fielder struggling to get the ball into the hot, humid New York air with enough power to clear the fences at Citi Field. He pulled everything, but powered nothing, lining one pitch foul into the seats down the right-field line.
A 370-foot drive ended his drought, but a line drive into the gap in right-center field started another one. Once his liner to the right-field corner fell just short of the fence, he was down to his final out.
He made a rally, launching ball off the canopy near the concourse in right-center field, but his final drive died in the depths of center field.
Instead of a repeat of last year’s crown, Fielder’s attempt to defend his crown ended up more like his first Derby in 2007, when he hit just three homers out of AT&T Park in San Francisco to finish tied for sixth. Meanwhile Cespedes, who was added to the Derby only after Miguel Cabrera couldn’t take part, stole the show Monday night.
Fielder also followed his regular-season history at Citi Field from his days as a Milwaukee Brewer. He hit one home run in 10 career games here, batting .250 (9-for-36). The Tigers, fittingly, will return for a three-game series against the Mets in August.
One of the guiding philosophies behind Max Scherzer’s emergence among baseball’s best starters is that his last 15 pitches are the most important pitches of the game. His first pitch Tuesday night, however, might be the biggest individual honor of his career.
Though Scherzer’s perfect record on the season ended on Saturday, he remained the perfect fit to start for the American League in this year’s All-Star Game. Manager Jim Leyland took care of the announcement Monday afternoon, naming his young right-hander for the honor.
“I don’t think I need to explain it any more than that,” Leyland said, citing the record.
Scherzer will be the second consecutive Tiger to start the All-Star Game, following Justin Verlander’s memorable opening inning from last year’s Midsummer Classic in Kansas City. They become the first teammates to start consecutive All-Star Games since then-Diamondbacks Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling started in 2001 and 2002, respectively.
“It means so much, especially for being my first All-Star Game to be in this position,” Scherzer said. “This is what you dream for, to get the nod and get the ball over so many great pitchers.”
For Scherzer, it’s merely the latest bit of history in a season that has forced several references to the history books. His 13-0 start was the best by a Major League pitcher since Roger Clemens in 1986, and the fourth-longest in modern Major League history. He came within a game of becoming the first Major League pitcher to go into the All-Star break with a 14-0 record.
As it is, his 13-1 record ties him for the Major League lead in wins alongside fellow All-Star Matt Moore. His 152 strikeouts and 10.55 strikeouts per nine innings rank second to Yu Darvish among AL hurlers, while his 3.19 ERA ranks ninth.
Scherzer consistently called his unbeaten start and wins total fluky, citing his pitching statistics as a better indicator of the way he has pitched. Still, his first All-Star selection clearly got to him when the rosters were announced July 6.
“When you get on these teams, when you get on good teams, you never really think about making the All-Star team,” Scherzer said last Friday, “because you’re so caught up in winning for the ballclub. For me, I’ve had some good years. Unfortunately I’ve had some streaks within those years when I didn’t quite have as good numbers to make the all-star team. But I finally feel like this year I’ve been able to put together and be consistent, and that’s the reason why I’m an All-Star this year.”
Scherzer has talked to his All-Star teammates, who have volunteered advice on how to handle the experience. The best, he said, came from first-year teammate and fifth-time All-Star Torii Hunter.
“Just enjoy it,” Scherzer said Hunter told him. “He’s just given me stories of dealing with family, dealing with friends, who makes it, who doesn’t it. It’s all the little things in that sense.”
He does not need advice on following Verlander, whose All-Star start last year ended with a five-run, four-hit opening inning. Verlander said afterwards he tried to throw hard from the outset, saying that’s what fans wanted to see.
Scherzer is not that kind of pitcher, though he can approach 100 mph with his fastball. When Scherzer was asked last weekend how he’d react if Prince Fielder tells him to throw a 101 mph fastball, Scherzer smiled.
“He’s not going to tell me that. He knows better,” Scherzer said. “That didn’t work, so we’re trying a new strategy.”
Scherzer said the ball he took off of his left wrist in Saturday’s loss should not be a factor for him.
“It hurt throughout the game,” Scherzer said, “but I was always able to pitch through it. I’ve been able to ice it and it really feels a lot better. I doubt it’ll affect me.”
The All-Star Game isn’t until Tuesday night, but Monday is the busiest day for All-Star festivities, not so much on the field as off of it. The on-field activity today consists of batting practice for the team as a whole and then the Home Run Derby tonight. Eight hitters take part, but most other players hang out for at least part of it to watch from the field. Several Tigers are likely to stick around for Prince Fielder’s bid for a second consecutive derby crown and third overall.
The schedule for the day’s events is below. Full coverage is available online at MLB.com (we have a roster of reporters here) and on TV at MLB Network leading up to the Home Run Derby on ESPN.
- 1:30pm: All-Star managers Jim Leyland and Bruce Bochy reveal their starting lineups and name their starting pitchers at a press conference at Citi Field. At this point, it would be a surprise if Max Scherzer doesn’t start for the American League. Scherzer will also take questions here if he’s named the starter.
- 2:15pm: National League players begin the annual media day scrum. If you’ve never seen highlights from this, think of media day at the Super Bowl, only in a more enclosed space and with fewer celebrity reporters.
- 3:15pm: Home Run Derby press conference. Fielder will be part of this.
- 4pm: The American League players get their turn at media day. With so many players taking part, the Tigers will be a major presence here.
- 5:15pm: National Leaguers take batting practice just as the gates open for Monday’s festivities.
- 6:15pm: American Leaguers take batting practice. This is about as close as we’ll get to Miguel Cabrera swinging for the fences in a Home Run Derby type of setting. Considering he nearly hit the back windows in left-center field in Arizona in BP two years ago, this is more Cabrera’s style.
- 8pm: Home Run Derby on ESPN. Fielder tries to join Ken Griffey Jr. as the only three-time winners.